Scientists send global message: ‘March for Science’

By Marley Molkentin

In the first three months of President Donald Trump’s term, he has proposed extensive cuts to federally funded science programs, removing $1.2 billion in research grants from the National Institute of Health, $102 million from NASA’s earth sciences program and $290 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—a 90 percent cut.

Chicago’s March for Science, scheduled for Earth Day on April 22, will protest these cuts and celebrate science, joining hundreds of marches throughout the world on the same date.

“We have authorities that are denying the facts or making decisions that will [negatively] affect the public despite knowing the facts,” said Marcelo Caplan, an associate professor in the Science and Mathematics Department  who will be attending the march. “Someone needs to stand up on this. The reason I am going is because the facts that are being attacked are scientific facts.” 

The march is intended to protect the role of science in the government and society and educate people on the important role that science plays in their daily lives, said Kristian Aloma, the Chicago-based march’s co-director.

Aloma said it is important that science be closely related to public policy. Though the march has a political statement to make, this is not an attack on the Trump administration. Instead, he said he wants this to be the beginning of a larger scientific movement.

“As each administration comes and goes, we hope to create a movement and an approach that influences and encourages those administrators to protect science, to leverage science and celebrate science,” Aloma said.

Scott Pruit, the new head of the EPA, was previously a vocal critic of the agency’s regulation policies when he served as Oklahoma attorney general. Other top appointees have no scientific background to prepare them for their jobs, according to multiple media reports.

Currently, there are more than 500 rallies in more than 50 countries planned, according to the group’s website. Steven Houser, president of the American Heart Association and senior associate dean of research at Temple University in Philadelphia, said he plans to attend the original March for Science in Washington, D.C. to bring “visibility to science” and break stereotypes.

“Scientists are real people, not just geeks in our laboratories. Scientists are trying to do good. We’re in our labs, underpaid and overworked, trying to improve the health of our country,” Houser said.